July 14, 2017 / 10:51 AM / 3 years ago

BAE says unfazed by Franco-German fighter project, sees future role

RAF FAIRFORD, England (Reuters) - The head of military aviation at UK defence contractor BAE Systems (BAES.L) said on Friday he did not feel threatened by Franco-German plans to develop a new European fighter and predicted Britain would end up participating in some way.

A sign adorns a hangar at the BAE Systems facility at Salmesbury, near Preston, northern England March 10, 2016. REUTERS/Phil Noble

France and Germany unveiled plans on Thursday for a new European fighter to tighten defence and security cooperation. The two countries currently compete for sales, with Germany and Britain both part of the Eurofighter consortium.

“I welcome it. I don’t feel threatened by it. I would like to see how it matures,” Chris Boardman, BAE’s managing director of Military Air and Information, said, adding BAE was always willing to collaborate in Europe, America and elsewhere.

“I am sure it would happen over time and I am absolutely convinced that we, the UK, and we, BAE Systems, will one way or another have an involvement,” Boardman told a news conference at the Royal International Air Tattoo, a major military air show.

“If you ask me what that will be and when it will be, I can’t answer those questions, but I understand what the general trend in the world is,” he said.

However, he drew a contrast between Franco-German plans to look at a replacement for the Eurofighter and France’s Rafale aircraft and two separate fighter projects already under way between Britain and Turkey and Britain and Japan, in which BAE is involved.

“My comment on Europe is ‘fantastic’. Europe has now recognised what the rest of the world is doing,” he said.

Britain and Turkey signed a deal in January to develop Turkish fighter jets.

Britain and Japan are looking at the potential development of a new stealth fighter under a technology deal reached in March.

Boardman also said there had been no let-up in efforts by France and Britain to develop an unmanned aerial combat demonstrator. BAE is working on the project with France’s Dassault Aviation (AVMD.PA), which also builds the Rafale fighter jet and is expected to represent France in the new Franco-German project.

France and Germany said on Thursday they would look at a new “combat air system,” suggesting it could involve both manned and unmanned components.

Referring to the Anglo-French combat drone project, Boardman said, “We are now working very closely with Dassault to take that to the next stage of commitment ... at the end of this year. There is nothing that I see which is stopping the pace of that discussion (or) the partnership that we have developed”.

Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Greg Mahlich

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